It’s actually rather fitting that the hot topic du jour has all the usual suspects in the media prattling on about what has become the Contraception Crisis, a state of affairs so dire than nobody even realized there was a problem accessing cheap and reliable birth control without the intervention of the Nanny State. After all, it’s not like I can run down to the corner drug store and pick up a box of Jimmy Hatz for roughly the same price as a vendi mocha latte at Starbuck’s, or hit up the local Planned Parenthood for some federally-subsidized Plan B. Oh, wait a second–I can. Come to think of it, your average Joe or Jane can pick from a variety of contraceptive options that would make the number of flavors at a Baskin Robbins seem paltry by comparison, for prices ranging from nothing to next to nothing. So why the sudden urgency in mandating that health care plans now provide that same stuff free of charge, even by religious organizations for which such things violate their most deeply-held beliefs?
Oh, yeah. There’s an election this year.
Which makes all the controversy surrounding the HHS mandate rather the point. Like the eventual demise of private health insurance under Obamacare, it’s not a bug but a feature: a juicy bit of red meat culture war steak to keep our minds–and the news cycle–off of the lackluster economy, rising gas prices, gazillion-dollar deficits, pretty much anything that makes the current administration look a tick less than stellar. That this also has the effect of whipping up the leftist base makes for icing on the cake, inspiring endless canards about how Republicans Want To Take Away Your Birth Control. Um, really? Truth be told, I’m more than happy when my fellow citizens practice sensible family planning; I just think it’s a bit presumptuous to expect somebody else to pick up the tab. Next thing you know, HHS will be mandating that insurance companies spring for dinner and a motel room. Flowers and candy, thankfully, will still be extra.
And that’s all well and good, I suppose–except for the inconvenient fact that the mandate is a bunch of hooey, with no real practical value even for those who believe otherwise. In the first place, it only applies to people who have some form of health insurance already. As most of them tend to be middle-class and employed, chances are that the token co-pay they’ve been shelling out for the Pill every month hasn’t exactly been busting the budget–so what real benefit would they be deriving from this again? Also, just because Big Government says something is free doesn’t make it so. Just as banks all slipped in those new “service” fees to cover the costs of Dodd-Frank, you can bet your bottom peso that insurance premiums will go up to offset their increased outlays. Maybe I’m just one of those cynics, but I don’t believe that’s the kind of screwing everybody had in mind.
So what’s left? Well, we have a mandate that, by its own standards, doesn’t even work–but it does manage to trample all over the First Amendment. Reasonable people might see that as a devil’s bargain (after all, if we’re going to trade our constitutional rights for government goodies, shouldn’t we at least get something in return?); in the realm of politics, however, it’s a steal. The president has been whispering sweet nothings into the ears of the American people for three years now, promising us this and promising us that, and now he’s looking to close the deal. Just one more term, baby. We’ve come this far, haven’t we? Show me some love. Let me just strap on a little protection first…
Problem is, this president has been putting the moves on us for some time now, and the country is already in big trouble. Republicans would be wise to keep that in mind, and to stay on message throughout the primaries and into the general campaign.